New refugee vetting rules will enhance America’s national security

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In the past year, Islamic extremist groups have successfully carried out numerous attacks across the globe and continue plotting to attack us at home.  The American people are deeply concerned about our security – and rightfully so.  Al-Qa’ida, the Islamic State and their affiliates are increasingly capable, organized, well resourced, and technically savvy adversaries who are now seeking to infiltrate the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into our country.  While the mainstream media has moved on to the next hot topic, this problem is only growing in intensity. 

The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed in a letter to Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that individuals with ties to terrorists groups in Syria have attempted to gain entry to the United States through the refugee program.  This is increasingly troublesome given that top security officials in the Obama administration, including FBI Director James Comey and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, have also admitted that our refugee screening – particularly of those coming from Iraq and Syria – is not robust enough. 

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We must take immediate action to keep our nation safe.  While there are varying opinions on how to address this problem, there is no doubt that Americans expect – and deserve – their government to detect changing threat environments and respond appropriately.   

This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellIn House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable McConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ Nearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo MORE (R-Ky.) has scheduled a vote on cloture on the House-passed American SAFE Act to address these threats.  This bill – which passed the House with an overwhelming, bipartisan and veto-proof majority – is a common sense, reasonable approach that requires comprehensive background checks of every refugee from Iraq or Syria and certification that each does not pose a threat before they can be admitted into the U.S.

This legislation will ensure that the screening of Iraqi and Syrian refugees is comprehensive and that the appropriate law enforcement, intelligence, and security agencies within our government are consulted and ultimately held accountable for each and every decision to grant a refugee access to the United States.  This legislation empowers the FBI Director to “take all actions necessary” to guarantee robust background investigations for each refugee.  If this and other security requirements aren’t met, the bill would suspend the president’s plan to admit thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.  In addition, it adds additional levels of accountability and ensures unprecedented mechanisms for Congressional oversight to ensure Americans’ security.

America has an admirable history of welcoming refugees.  Yet, our first obligation is to protect the American people. The American SAFE Act honors our commitment to both of these ideals while bolstering security.  We urge the Senate to pass the American SAFE Act and to show America that Congress is listening to its concerns and taking decisive action to prevent terrorists from crossing our shores.  Let’s put security first and get this bill to the president’s desk.

Burr is North Carolina’s senior senator, serving since 2005. He is chairman of the Intelligence Committee and also sits on the Finance and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees. Hudson has represented North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District since 2013. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He is co-author of the American SAFE Act.